With great appreciation for the star that lived among us, the Iyengar community said goodbye to Mary Dunn on September 4, 2008. She passed peacefully with her family in New York. The daughter of Mary Palmer, who introduced Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar to America in 1974, Mary Dunn moved to San Diego in 1980 and championed the growth of both the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Diego and the Institute in San Francisco. She was instrumental in opening the fledgling Los Angeles Institute in 1984, traveling monthly to teach and serve as a mentor. Her dedication and people skills nurtured the success of these communities. In 1986, Mary moved to New York and helped to grow the Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York into one of the finest schools in the U.S.
Certified at the Junior Advanced level, Mary said that Iyengar Yoga was the place where her life interests and life work came together because it was in her teaching where she synthesized her love of English, history, music, the arts and philosophy, garnered through her education at the University of Wisconsin.
Her generosity as a teacher is simply unmatched. As a senior teacher in New York and leading workshops worldwide, Mary was an unstoppable combination of knowledge, enthusiasm and perseverance. She made the philosophy of yoga come alive and dance in her classes. Her teaching was lofty and accessible, majestic and fun. She embodied the possibility of transformation, and then guided us to find our own path forward.
She was a rare individual who lived with grace, joy, compassion, tremendous vitality and the contagious enthusiasm to support community wherever she was. She will continue to be a light among us. She taught us how to live, and, in her dying, how to embrace every moment with complete awareness and receptivity.
Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar counseled members of the Iyengar community to read the following slokas from the Bhagavad Gita:
10. As they stood between the two armies, Sri Krishna smiled and replied to Arjuna, who had sunk into despair.
11. Sri Krishna said, You speak sincerely, but your sorrow has no cause. The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead.
13. As the same person inhabits the body through childhood, youth, and old age, so too at the time of death he attains another body. The wise are not deluded by these changes.
22. As a man abandons worn-out clothes and acquires new ones, so when the body is worn out a new one is acquired by the Self, who lives within.
23. The Self cannot be pierced by weapons or burned by fire; water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it.
24. The Self cannot be pierced or burned, made wet or dry. It is everlasting and infinite, standing on the motionless foundations of eternity.
25. The Self is unmanifested, beyond all thought, beyond all change. Knowing this, you should not grieve.
26. Oh mighty Arjuna, even if you believe the Self to be subject to birth and death, you should not grieve.
27. Death is inevitable for the living; birth is inevitable for the dead. Since these are unavoidable, you should not sorrow.
28. Every creature is unmanifested at first and then attains manifestation. When its end has come, it once again becomes unmanifested. What is there to lament in this?
29. The glory of the Self is beheld by a few, and a few describe it; a few listen, but many without understanding.
30. The Self of all beings, living within the body, is eternal and cannot be harmed. Therefore, do not grieve.
Guruji said that Mary is “a clean and clear person, and she now has freedom. We have lost a dear, good friend. She is noble.” He stated that because of the life that Mary led, her soul has the imprint of yoga, which she will no doubt carry into the next life.
Lisa Walford holds an Intermediate Senior II Iyengar teaching certificate and has been teaching in LA since 1982. She serves on the board of the nonprofit Iyengar Yoga Therapeutics. Along with Maty Ezraty, Lisa helped develop the Teacher Training Program at YogaWorks: walford.com